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Jesús Has Risen: Luzardo Dazzles in 2022 Debut

Jesus Luzardo #44 of the Miami Marlins pitches against the Miami Marlins during the second inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Jesús Luzardo had one of the better springs out of the Miami Marlins’ pitching staff. The only question would be whether his improved fastball and command would follow him into the regular season.

Tuesday night’s outing against the Los Angeles Angels answered that question: Yes. Yes, it followed him.

The 24-year-old recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts in five innings in a 4-3 loss. Those 12 strikeouts were also the most ever by a Marlins pitcher in an outing of five innings or fewer. He allowed just one run.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas graduate was one of the bigger question marks of the Miami Marlins’ rotation entering the season. Luzardo, who posted a 6.87 ERA and 6.09 FIP through the first 4 months of the 2021 season with the Oakland Athletics, continued to struggle after being traded to the Marlins for Starling Marte on July 28. He recorded a 6.44 ERA over 57 1⁄3 innings in Miami, averaging less than 5 innings over his 12 starts.

While people were excited by his fastball development this spring (averaging 97.7 miles per hour versus 95.5 MPH last season), his curveball was almost literally untouchable Tuesday. He threw 38 curveballs—representing half of his total pitches thrown—inducing 12 swings-and-misses. None of the Angels’ batters put them in play. The one curveball that an Angel batter made contact with was fouled off. Nine of his strikeouts came via the curveball.

While his whiff rate was in the 74th percentile of pitchers last season, he placed in the 41st percentile in K rate (9.1 K/9). With this new approach of leaning heavily on his best weapon, he’s able to put his opponents away more efficiently.

Of course, it would be impossible to speak about Luzardo’s early improvement without mentioning his fastball. His four-seam fastball was in the 81st percentile for average velocity generated last season. Still, he ranked 7th-worst among 239 pitchers to have at least 100 plate appearances with a plus-12 run value. Opponents hit .348 with a .674 slugging percentage.

On Tuesday, however, his fastball was dialed in. He maxed out at 99.2 MPH and averaged 97.6, a couple ticks above his 2021 average.

One of Luzardo’s biggest weaknesses last season was his command. He ranked in the 18th percentile among Major League pitchers last season, posting a walk rate of 11%. On Tuesday, he recorded only one walk (to Mike Trout).

Perhaps the only gripe with Luzardo’s outing Tuesday was a couple of wild pitches that got away from catcher Jacob Stallings, both of which coming off his curveball.

Marlins manager Don Mattingly said during spring training that Luzardo has started to calm down more as a pitcher, which has helped his control issues.

“Jesús has been more settled,” Mattingly said. “He’s emotional. He gets going fast...He’s starting to understand when those things are coming.”

If he can come close to duplicating Tuesday’s outing on a consistent basis, Miami’s rotation can be among the deepest in baseball.

Luzardo’s Postgame Comments